Hog confinements: County will not appeal DNR decision
Union County Board of Supervisors will not appeal the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) recent decision to grant construction permits to Mike Taylor of Taylor Family Farms for two hog confinements in Union County.
Tim Kenyon, county attorney, broke that news to more than a dozen concerned homeowners snuggled together in the board room Monday morning.
Kenyon said, with both hog confinements passing master matrix testing, "the county has no factual nor legal basis to pursue the very narrow/limited issues available for an appeal." Kenyon said the board doesn't feel it to be appropriate to expend county resources to pursue an appeal, which, in all likelihood, would not be successful.
Vernon Long, who lives less than a mile from the proposed sites, strongly disagreed with Kenyon and board's decision Monday. Long believes the county needs to appeal the DNR's decision and go on the record firmly against these proposed confinements.
"We need to go down die-trying — the old American way," Long said. "Die-trying. And, if Mr. Kenyon is a little short on time and staff, as he generally is, potentially he would still give it the good old Yankee try. At least you go down on the record of saying, 'No, we do not want it here.' Because if you don't say 'No' now your just letting the door fly open for other hog confinements to come into Union County."
Homeowners asked Kenyon how much money it would cost the county to appeal the DNR's decision. Kenyon said it would cost anywhere from a couple thousand dollars to $10,000.
But, Kenyon reiterated he doesn't feel the county has any chance of winning the appeal. Kenyon added other counties have tried this appeal process with the Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) in the past and they've all been unsuccessful.
The county's focus now shifts to the roads and bridges surrounding the hog confinements.
The cost of improving that infrastructure was the primary reason county supervisors opposed the construction of the hog confinements in September.
Road improvement cost for the nine-tenths of a mile near the confinements on Ivy Avenue was estimated at $181,300. Other repairs to Ivy Avenue are estimated at $203,563, 230th Street is estimated at $276,299. The board also believes a bridge replacement may be needed on 230th Street estimated at $92,000.
However, Kenyon said Monday the county is not obligated to do any of those upgrades. The county is only responsible to continue their current maintenance schedule.
While that would be good from a financial standpoint for the county, Dick Linderman, who will live less than 2,000 feet from the proposed confinements, said if the county continues the current maintenance schedule he would suffer because when the new hog confinements are built there will be extra semi traffic.
And, that extra semi traffic will cause his already bad road, to deteriorate at a much quicker pace.
"I could be stuck down there because of mud," Linderman said. "If we keep up only regular maintenance that road will turn to mush. In the wintertime, springtime, are you guys going to come get me to get out to work? Normal road maintenance on my road, if the they do it three times a year I'm thrilled to pieces. I had grass growing up in the middle of it all summer. It looked like a cow path and that's fine with me, but when we have have semis going on it daily, it will be even worse."
Jim Garrett, who live less than a mile from the proposed confinements, said after speaking with the DNR numerous times, he feels the whole process is stacked against the citizen. Garrett said he and his neighbors have researched and went through all the proper channels to stop this hog confinement, but "we keep getting dealt deuces."
"As an example of the unfairness involved, if the master matrix passes the DNR will not revisit the master matrix no matter how much I plead with them," Garrett said. "If it's passed, it's passed and they don't even look at it. If it fails, they will look at it again. That doesn't quite seem fair. Why would the DNR go to work for the applicant and try to rescore the matrix in their favor, but won't go to work for the citizenship."
In a June public hearing, Taylor asked county officials to allow him to build two hog confinements southeast of Creston.
More than 50 farmers and homeowners attended that public hearing, most of whom lived within a two-mile radius of the proposed hog confinements.
And, all were in strong opposition to the confinements being proposed by Taylor.
One of the proposed hog confinement locations is less than 2,000 feet from the home of Dick and Debbie Linderman. At least 12 families live within one and a-half miles of the hog confinement locations, and many of those families voiced concerns to the board in June about the odor from the hog confinements and possibility of the confinements reducing their property values.
The Union County Board of Supervisors unanimously denied Taylor's proposal with Bob Brown, board chairman, stating “there are good locations for hog confinements, and bad locations for hog confinements and this location isn’t one of the better ones.”
Several supervisors were also concerned with the cost of fixing the roadway leading to the confinements.
In early August, Taylor filed an amended master matrix at the county auditor’s office. Taylor made upgrades to the master matrix, had the matrix re-scored, and according to the documents filed Aug. 6, he suggests he's improved his matrix score from 440 to 510 points.
Then in late August, Taylor notified DNR officials he was withdrawing his original permit application to build two new hog confinements southeast of Creston.
Then, less than 12 hours later, Taylor filed a new application for the hog confinements, including the revised master matrix with the Union County auditor's office. The supervisor's then reviewed the new application and scheduled the public hearing held Monday.
The proposed hog confinement applications were reviewed by the DNR in October and granted Taylor's request for construction permits for two hog confinements in Grant and Highland townships of Union County.